Wednesday, March 17, 2010

He won't go to bed.

He threw bath water over the edge of the tub, hit his brother, hit me, wouldn't put his pajamas on, wouldn't cooperate. Went to bed early, and now he keeps "escaping" - running to the edge of the sun room, just to stare at me until our eyes meet and he sprints back in his room, determining exactly how elastic the rules are.

I don't want this to be as important as it is.

I hate how much emphasis rests on socialization - how he will be valued outside of our home based on his ability to blend in, follow directions, be a part of the crowd. It's my job to socialize him, and if he can't function as part of a whole, it won't matter what else he has to offer, because his voice will never be heard. He has to learn to function within a system, to accept authority. The rules have to matter. Tonight, my job is to show him that's true (that part is almost always my job, because he wouldn't dare push the envelope if his dad were home). It matters a lot later, so it has to matter tonight, too.

So I follow through. Put him to bed early for his misdeeds, put him back in bed now. Because I'm the mom, and it's my job to socialize him, not because I really care so much about water over the tub.

But socialization and morality are a high wire, pulled tight against grace and freedom. How many adults do I know who are still caught in the lie that says salvation depends on the ability to be good? And how many continue to resist the Gospel because of the lie that God will always be angry at them for their misdeeds? How do I teach my children to function as part of a whole, and still acknowledge that there is no one good, not even one? What I care about - what matters to me - is that they grow up to understand the Gospel. How does that fit in with earning a smiley face on the behavior chart in preschool? It breaks my heart how much that stupid chart matters to him, how hard he tries to be "good" for his teacher. I know the extrinsic value, at least, of being seen as "good" in social settings, but everything in me wants to tell him, "It will never work, honey. There's no such thing."

How do I continue to teach him the law, so that he can be a fully functioning adult one day, while acknowledging that real life can only be found in grace?

The other day he climbed onto the couch beside me. It had been a day full of learning to accept authority, and he looked as frazzled as I felt. I pulled him onto my lap as he leaned into my arms. "Do you know what?" I said to him. "The best part about being a family is, no matter what kind of day we have had, we're all in this together."

I really don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to raise boys who will grow into men who understand their worth as children of God. But I intend to find out.


Brian and Ella said...

amen. amen. and amen. to everything.

Kendra said...

And when you do find out...please blog about it so I can learn...=)

Lisa said...

I think your quote about being in a family teaches him the "law" within the context of Grace. Yes, there are rules. But if you aren't perfect in following them, we still love you and will help you do better next time. I think that's the best way to learn about God and His Mercy.

While I get your point about society and rules and no objective "good" behavior, I think it bears mentioning that rules and laws are not just man-made constructions to keep us in line. The idea stems from God. Natural law is stamped on all of our hearts, and we feel the most freedom when we are living in line with it. We think that making our own rules will make us happier, but it only serves to imprison us in our sin. A kid example of this: If the rule is no throwing rocks on the playground and one kid thinks he is above the rules, pretty soon no other kids will want to play with him because he's hitting them with rocks and he'll be the outcast. But if he follows the rule, he will have more fun and be happier in his play because all the other kids will want to play with him too. (We're dealing with a lot of rock-throwing around here's on the brain.)

So you might be teaching him to behave in polite society, but it is not just for society's's for his. Knowing that there are rules is the first step. As he matures he'll begin to recognize natural law even if he can't name it. He won't learn it perfectly, but Grace steps in when we all fall down and need to start over.